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Lake James

Mount Rainier Area > NW - Carbon River/Mowich
46.9949, -121.9123 Map & Directions
22.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
3,450 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Shrouded Rainier. Photo by alxndghall. Full-size image
  • Mountain views
  • Old growth
  • Dogs not allowed
  • Established campsites
  • Ridges/passes
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The way to Lake James offers a myriad of experiences, from deep rainforest to the high country of Mount Rainier National Park. Undertake an ambitious dayhike, or be more leisurely about it and make it a backpacking trip. Continue reading

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Hiking Lake James

The way to Lake James offers a myriad of experiences, from deep rainforest to the high country of Mount Rainier National Park. 

From the Carbon River Road entrance, hike 5 miles along the decommissioned road to the Ipsut Creek Campground, which is the junction with the Wonderland Trail

From here, northeast on the Wonderland Trail towards the Northern Loop trail junction. Cross the Carbon River on a log bridge to yet another junction. From the trailhead to this junction, you've had a relatively flat seven miles of hiking, but now begins a steep uphill climb on the Northern Loop trail.

As you gain elevation, the forest becomes thinner, shifting from rainforest to drier, second-growth, and finally becoming subalpine meadow just before you arrive at Yellowstone Cliffs. Grab some water and some air during a break, then climb one more mile before arriving in Windy Gap, a remarkable, open section of Mount Rainier National Park rarely seen by hikers. 

Meander through this wide-open meadow, complete with mountain views (though not of Rainier) and small tarns before heading another 1.5 miles down the trail and back into forest to Lake James. 

WTA Pro Tip: Lake James is a great backpacking destination, in and of itself, or you could make it part of a longer outing on the Northern Loop. Several camps exist, including one at Yellowstone Cliffs or the Lake James Ranger Cabin, but you'll need to secure a permit before heading out. Stop at the ranger station at the Carbon River Entrance to do so. 

Hike Description Written by
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Lake James

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.9949, -121.9123 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

See weather forecast

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

From Puyallup, drive 13 miles east on State Route 410 to Buckley, then turn right onto SR 165. Proceed to the bridge over the Carbon River Gorge and then bear left to Mount Rainier National Park's Carbon River Entrance. Due to 2006 flood damage, it is now necessary to walk the road just inside the park boundary.

More Hike Details


Mount Rainier Area > NW - Carbon River/Mowich

Mount Rainier National Park

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Lake James

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